Saturday, 31 January 2015

The new radicals: A guide to the insurgent parties of Europe

In the last few years, many parties of the Left and Right that were previously considered to be fringe parties have surged, primarily due to a combination of left or right-wing populist politics, combined with protectionism, and an outlook that is anti-EU, anti-globalisation, and/or anti-austerity. Here, I will share a profile of some of the most radical parties that are hoping to be in (Or in the case of SYRIZA, are already) in government in their respective nations.

Denmark: The Danish People's Party

The Danish People's Party are a far-right Danish political party. Unlike a conventional far-right party, it has co-operated and supported conservative Danish governments in the past. The party is also significantly less racially biased when compared to other far-right parties across Europe, and has restricted itself to anti-immigration rhetoric and Euroscepticism.  Previously, the party has been restricted from being in power itself in a coalition, however, this time, the centre-right in Denmark have said that they intend to co-operate with the DPP, so they are definitely a party to watch. The party now polls at around 20%, a historic high, and only narrowly behind the ruling social democrats, who are the 2nd most popular party. Denmark goes to the polls in September, so Danes had better be prepared for a major shock.

France: National Front
The National Front is a far-right, Eurosceptic, and anti-immigration party that is polling very well in France, only a narrow 3rd behind the Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party) and the UMP (Union for a popular movement). The story is much the same as elsewhere, as a country with a high migrant population becomes concerned with immigration and the EU due to the economic situation, leading to a massive surge in FN support. Polls have shown a close fight between Marine Le Pen and incumbent president Francois Hollande if a french presidential election would take place tomorrow. After the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, there were fears that the FN would be able to make political capital and increase its support further. However, opinion polls since then have shown an increase in support for Hollande and the socialists due to how he handled the situation, which has led to a decline in FN support.

Greece: SYRIZA
Virtually everyone who has been watching the news over the last fortnight will know about this story. Due to strict austerity measures imposed by the IMF, the left-wing party SYRIZA have surged from just 5% in 2009 to 16% in the 2012 Greek elections, and to 37% in the Greek elections held last week, becoming the new Greek government. Only time will tell as to how successful they are as the Greek government.

Ireland: Sinn Fein
Sinn Fein have seen a massive surge in support in recent years in the Republic as the Labour Party have collapsed, and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is now confident enough to talk about the legislative platform his party will adopt if/when they win office. Sinn Fein trebled their number of seats in the Irish local elections last year, capitalising on a complete collapse in Labour Party support, and is now alternating between 1st and 2nd place in Irish polling. Sinn Fein have adopted a broadly anti-austerity left-wing platform, reaching out from beyond their traditional republican stance to adopt more broader left-wing economics, which is appealing to Irish voters who have been ravaged by austerity cuts for many years.

Netherlands: Freedom party
The Netherlands is an interesting country where both the centre-right conservatives and the labour party have collapsed, in favour of a centre-left party known as democrats 66, and the far-right Freedom Party of Geert Wilders. The Freedom Party is very similar to the FN in France, and advocated a strongly anti-Islam, anti-EU, and national socialist approach that is seeing it win support across the board. The next election, however, is not due until mid-2017, which gives the mainstream parties time to recover and to push Wilders and his extremists away from victory.

Portugal: Socialist Party
The Socialist Party is another left-wing party that has seen increased support, although they are considerably more moderate than many other of the left-wing parties that have surged. The Socialists now look set to overtake the social democratic party to become the largest party in the Portuguese parliament when an election is held later on this year. Interestingly, the communist vote has also started to rise, but not enough to cause the socialists to panic.

Podemos has quite a remarkable story. A few years ago, the party did not exist at all, but the party is now level pegging with the ruling Partido Popular, and must surely be considered the new favourites to win the next Spanish election, which is taking place later on this year. The rise of Podemos (The name means "We can") started to happen during the 2014 European Parliament elections, when it stormed onto the scene and won 5 MEP seats. Since then, the little known party has surged in the polls and now has a real chance of becoming the 2nd radical left government to be elected in Europe.

Sweden: Sweden Democrats
The Sweden Democrats are a far-right political party in Sweden. The party has continuously increased its support at every general election it has fought, and is currently polling at an all time high of 15%. The party won 49 seats in the last election, forcing the newly elected Social Democratic Swedish PM to create a deal with the Moderate party to get legislation through parliament. Like many other far-right parties in Nordic nations, the party is sufficiently soft to attract popular support, at least when compared to far-right parties in places such as France.

United Kingdom: UKIP
This story needs little retelling. UKIP, a Eurosceptic right-wing party that formerly only did well in European Parliamentary elections, has surged in conjunction with other left-wing and right-wing radical parties in Europe, and is likely to come 3rd in the UK parliamentary elections that are set to take place in May. Compared to some of the other radical right elements such as the FN, however, the party is significantly more moderate, and prefers to put migrants and the European Union in its sights, rather than racial or authoritarian nationalism that is common amongst fascist parties and political parties of the far-right.

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